Elizabeth Zachry Rutschow

Managing Researcher and Acting Director, PROMISE Center

Elizabeth Zachry Rutschow is a managing researcher at AIR. She is an expert in postsecondary and adult education reform and has led many large-scale, mixed-methods evaluations of community college and adult education reforms. She is dedicated to using qualitative and quantitative research to improve equity and the prosperity and well-being of underserved individuals through promising education and workforce interventions.

Dr. Rutschow has nearly 20 years of experience conducting qualitative and quantitative studies on topics as wide-ranging as assessments of adults’ literacy skills to college mathematics reforms to integrating work-based learning opportunities into postsecondary settings. Prior to joining AIR, she was a senior research associate at MDRC where she spent 14 years leading a multitude of research projects on an array of topics, including community college institutional reform; the integration of college- and career-readiness interventions in adult basic education programs; improving the participation of underrepresented students in college STEM programs; career and technical education programs in postsecondary education, and developmental education reforms aimed at accelerating students’ progress to college-level courses and improving the instruction and supports provided in college classes.

Dr. Rutschow was a lead researcher at the Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness (CAPR), an IES-funded research and development center focused on improving the evidence on developmental education reform. She led CAPR’s instructional study, a mixed-methods, randomized controlled trial (RCT) study of the pedagogical, content, and structural changes in developmental and college-level math courses. She also authored a series of reports surveying the landscape, scope, and scale of developmental education reform in the nation.

Dr. Rutschow is an expert in synthesizing rigorous research on promising programs and interventions, including two reviews—Unlocking the Gate and Beyond the GED—analyzing the most promising reforms in developmental and adult education. She also synthesized research evidence on developmental math reforms for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in 2019. From 2007 to 2012, she was the project director for MDRC’s evaluation of Achieving the Dream, one of the largest community college reform initiatives in the country. In this role, she led studies documenting the implementation of the initiative across 27 colleges; a mixed-methods RCT study of college student success courses; a cost study; and several qualitative studies profiling new interventions and strategies implemented during colleges’ participation in the initiative.

Before joining MDRC in 2007, Dr. Rutschow worked as a researcher and teacher at Harvard’s National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy and is a specialist in reading instruction.

Elizabeth Rutschow

Ed.D. and M.Ed., Harvard Graduate School of Education; M.Div., Harvard Divinity School; B.A., University of Virginia